Posts tagged with "The Washington Post"

Marie Kondo’s life is messier now—and she’s fine with it

January 30, 2023

In the chill of January, we often examine how we are living. And right now, many of us are revisiting the tidying principles of Japanese lifestyle queen Marie Kondo.

But the ever-organized Kondo, it seems, is a bit frazzled since giving birth to her third child in 2021. Like most of us, she’s having trouble keeping up with all of it, reports The Washington Post.

Never fear, though: She is still sparking joy. It’s just that, these days, that doesn’t hinge on having a tidy house. Her new rituals turn inward, to more thoughtful things than a drawer full of perfectly folded T-shirts or an Instagram-worthy spice cabinet.

In her latest book, “Marie Kondo’s Kurashi at Home: How to Organize Your Space and Achieve Your Ideal Life,” Kondo expands on the Japanese concept of kurashi, or “way of life.” She elaborates on simple ways to bring calmness and happiness to everyday things. Yes, that can mean cleaning out your purse every night, but it can also mean playing classical piano music during breakfast. Or making your mom’s recipe for black vinegar chicken wing stew. (The recipe is included in the book.)

This book is a bit of a reality check. Kondo, 38, has caught up with the rest of us—trying to corral the piles on our kitchen counters while on hold with the plumber and trying not to burn dinner. The multitasker seems somewhat humbled by her growing family and her business success; maybe realizing that you can find peace in some matcha, even if you drink it in a favorite cracked mug rather than a porcelain cup.

“Tidying up means dealing with all the ‘things’ in your life,” Kondo writes in the book. “So, what do you really want to put in order?”

Kondo says her life underwent a huge change after she had her third child, and external tidying has taken a back seat to the business of life. “My home is messy, but the way I am spending my time is the right way for me at this time at this stage of my life,” she said through an interpreter at a recent media webinar and virtual tea ceremony.

She encourages everyone to create their own rhythm, their own routines, based on what makes them happy, and she offers more than 125 serene photographic examples to inspire. (Most are not, however, from her own house.) Her assignment for readers: Come up with a doable joy routine and stick with it for ten days. Then see whether the daily habit changes are making you feel better.

Kondo says that, for many, the perfectly organized space is not realistic. “Up until now, I was a professional tidier, so I did my best to keep my home tidy at all times,” she said at the event. “I have kind of given up on that in a good way for me. Now I realize what is important to me is enjoying spending time with my children at home.”

Although her two Netflix series showed her helping people overwhelmed with emotion about their stuff, Kondo now drills down to a more tightly focused approach, helping people identify little activities to bring peace and joy on a deeper level.

Among Kondo’s personal joys: buying 100% silk or organic cotton pajamas, because they feel good and help her sleep; perusing her tea-leaf drawer and drinking tea three times a day to bring a sense of calm; and opening her childhood sewing box, which brings back warm memories.

Previously, the decluttering diva has seemed to be a bit of a tough cookie when it comes to sharing details of her inner thoughts or how she finds time to relax. But now Kondo writes in her book that, although she loves her work, “sometimes I pack my schedule so tightly I feel frazzled or am overcome with anxiety.” As a tidying professional, she says, she puts pressure on herself to always keep her house in order.

She and her husband, Takumi Kawahara, president of KonMari Media, the company she founded, carefully plan their days to spend time with their children while still getting other tasks done. (Kawahara, by the way, goes to bed at the same time as the kids and gets up at 4 a.m.) She gets through the day by flinging open her windows for some fresh morning air, lighting incense and wiping the soles of her shoes. And, yes, she does thank her shoes for supporting her when she is cleaning them after a day of service.

Kondo says people have been asking her about her own lifestyle and personal rituals since her book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” published in the United States in 2014. “Tidying our homes, tidying our environment is also a way of tidying our minds,” she says. By organizing our hearts and minds, it becomes clear what we really want, Kondo says, adding that these are the things she is struggling with right now.

Kondo says she realizes that, as her children grow up, her way of life will change again. “I will keep looking inward to make sure I am leading my own kurashi,” she says. Good luck with that, Marie.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Takeaways from Sundance’s secret Brett Kavanaugh documentary

January 24, 2023

“We’re getting more tips,” Amy Herdy announced Friday night, January 20, after the Sundance Film Festival premiere of “Justice,” a documentary she produced about the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, reports The Washington Post.

The film’s existence was a surprise, with the festival only revealing on Thursday–its opening night—that it was making a very last-minute addition to the lineup: the first documentary from “Swingers” and “The Bourne Identity” director Doug Liman. Within half an hour of the news getting out, Liman said in the post-screening Q&A, the film team started hearing from people who had sent the FBI tips before Kavanaugh’s confirmation, which the agency did not further investigate.

Suddenly, what was finished began anew. The tips were compelling enough for the team to start investigating and filming again with plans to add footage to the completed film, Liman said. In a wild and rare move, the finished documentary had converted back to a work in progress.

“I thought I was off the hook,” said Liman, who self-funded the film to retain independence and keep it secret. “I was like, ‘We’re at Sundance. I could sell the movie.’ … And yesterday, Amy’s like, ‘We’re not done.’ Seriously. Monday morning, they’ll be back at it.”

The film, which Liman said in a news release is meant to “[pick] up where the FBI investigation into Brett M. Kavanaugh fell woefully short,” debuted to a packed house of nearly 300 people. Someone asked if he’d show it to Kavanaugh. The answer was a joking yes. “We’re looking for buyers,” said Liman, “and it had occurred to us that he might buy it.”

The justice’s fall 2018 confirmation process, which took place just before the midterm elections, became chaotic when Palo Alto-based psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford accused the Trump nominee of sexually assaulting her when they were in high school. After the Post published Ford’s story, two more women accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault.

Deborah Ramirez, one of those women, told The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer that Kavanaugh thrust his penis in her face during a party when they were at Yale University. The FBI interviewed Ramirez, whose attorneys said the bureau never followed up with any of the 20 witnesses who might have been able to corroborate her story. The FBI’s investigation into Kavanaugh generated 4,500 tips that largely went un-investigated.

After reviewing an FBI report compiled in one week, which Democrats decried as rushed and incomplete, the Trump White House declared it found no corroboration of the claims against the justice. Kavanaugh, who was part of the conservative 6-3 majority that overturned Roe v. Wade, has categorically denied all accusations and does not appear in the film outside of archival footage.

The public information office of the Supreme Court did not return The Post’s request for comment on the documentary. The FBI’s national press office did not have a comment on the documentary—but reiterated that their services in a nomination process are limited to fact-finding and background investigations.

“The scope of the background investigation is requested by the White House,” an agency spokeswoman told The Post in a statement. “The FBI does not have the independent authority to expand the scope of a supplemental background investigation outside the requesting agency’s parameters.”

Liman told the Sundance audience he started thinking about making this movie in 2018 while watching the hearings and “knowing that something very wrong was happening.”

After all, the director grew up around the law. His father, Arthur Liman, was chief counsel in the Senate’s investigation into the Iran-Contra Affair and helped lead the investigation into the Attica prison uprising. Doug Liman’s older brother, Lewis, is a federal judge in the Southern District of New York.

Liman and Herdy, an investigative journalist who made the 2015 sexual assault documentary “The Hunting Ground,” kept their Kavanaugh investigation secret for a year by using nondisclosure agreements —an impressive feat in the small world of documentary film.

Liman intersperses archival footage with testimonies from Ramirez, Ford’s friends, and Kavanaugh’s Yale classmates—who said the justice was often severely inebriated—but the film feels unfinished. (Variety called it “an exercise in preaching to the choir.”) Although, one potent moment reveals a previously unheard recording of a tip to the FBI about another accuser.

Liman gives Ramirez the public platform she never got in front of the Senate. A long, emotional interview with the Boulder-based former Yale classmate of Kavanaugh’s forms the movie’s spine. Although the interview doesn’t contain much that hasn’t already been reported, it’s powerful to hear someone who doesn’t enjoy being in the spotlight tell her own story with all the anguished starts and stops that come with trying to recall a nearly 40-year-old traumatic event.

Ramirez discusses her Catholic upbringing and early desire to be a nun. She also talks about entering Yale in 1983 as the shy, half-Puerto Rican daughter of parents who didn’t go to college—and trying to fit in to the predominantly wealthy, White, male institution that only had started admitting women 15 years prior. She offers a detailed recounting of getting inebriated at a party and looking up to find a penis in her face, which—having never touched a penis before— she accidentally brushed with her hand. All her friends began laughing at her.

She’d blocked the memory, but as Farrow interviewed her, she says details resurfaced, and she’s positive Kavanaugh was her assailant.

“The prominent memory is the laughter,” she says in the documentary, echoing what Ford had said in her testimony. “I have never forgotten it in 35 years.”

The film opens, rather curiously, with the camera trained on Liman sitting on a white couch, as a blonde woman asks why he would want to get into something this contentious. The audience only sees the back of Ford’s head in that moment, then a little more of her at her sons’ basketball game right after the opening. Otherwise, she is seen only in footage of her hearing.

Instead, her close friends tell her story. One says Ford told him about the Kavanaugh assault without naming him in 2015, when Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner received a lenient sentence after being convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious female student, Chanel Miller.

Liman said in the Q&A he felt Ford didn’t need to be subjected to another interview after baring everything on the national stage. He preferred to turn the camera and allow her to ask some questions.

“I felt that Dr. Ford has given so much to this country,” he said. “She’s done enough for ten lifetimes.”

If there’s a smoking gun in Liman’s film, it’s a voice message left on the FBI tip line from Max Stier, the president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service, who attended Yale with Kavanagh and Ramirez.

In the previously unheard recording, Stier says classmates told him not just that Kavanaugh stuck his penis in Ramirez’s face, but that afterward, Kavanaugh went to the bathroom to make himself erect before allegedly returning to assault her again, hoping to amuse an audience of mutual friendsv. In the film, Ramirez says she’d suppressed the memory so deeply she couldn’t recall this second incident, even when Farrow explicitly asked her about it.

Stier’s message to the FBI also cites another incident involving a different woman, whom he says he witnessed “firsthand” a severely inebriated Kavanaugh, his dorm mate, pulling his pants down at a different party while a group of soccer players forced a drunk female freshman to hold his penis.

The woman’s friends told The New York Times in 2019 that she did not remember the incident and did not want to come forward after seeing the treatment of Ford. Stier does not appear in the film to elaborate nor did he give further interviews when his tip first surfaced in 2019.

The filmmakers told the audience Friday that they have a website, JusticeFilm.com, where people can send tips. “I do hope that this triggers action,” said Herdy. “I do hope this triggers additional investigation with real subpoena powers.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Jeff Zients to be named White House chief of staff

January 24, 2023

President Joe Biden is planning to name Jeff Zients—an investor and former Obama Administration official who led the current administration’s COVID-19 response—to be his next chief of staff, according to people familiar with the decision, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Ron Klain, Biden’s current chief of staffis expected to step down in the coming weeks after more than two years on the job. The Washington Post earlier reported that Zients was expected to replace him. Zients didn’t respond to requests for comment, and the White House declined to comment.

Zients helmed the White House efforts to increase distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine during the first year of Biden’s presidency—helping to cobble together a network to make the shots available nationally.

He left the administration in April 2022, saying he had no specific job plans; and, in recent months, was tapped by Klain to prepare for staff departures and help to identify potential replacements, according to people familiar with the matter. Zients also co-chaired Biden’s presidential transition team in 2020.

The president is turning to Zients as his next chief of staff because of his reputation as a manager with a history of navigating government bureaucracy, the people familiar with the matter said.

Zients is expected to bring to the job a more decentralized approach than the one favored by Klain, who was involved in nearly every aspect of day-to-day operations at the White House, some of the people familiar with the matter said.

While Zients is expected to focus on policy and governing, other longtime aides to Biden are likely to be more involved in advising the president on political matters as he faces investigations from newly empowered House Republicans and prepares to announce his reelection bid. 

In the coming year, White House officials expect to focus on implementing a slate of laws signed by the president since he took office—including measures to fix the country’s aging infrastructure, invest in renewable energy, and boost semiconductor manufacturing. Options for major legislative breakthroughs will be limited now that Republicans have taken control of the House.

Zients was a top economic adviser to President Barack Obama, serving as the director of the National Economic Council and a senior official at the Office of Management and Budget. Zients joined the board of Facebook—now part of Meta Platforms—in 2018 after leaving the Obama Administration. He was a top executive with the Cranemere Group, an investment holding company.

At the beginning of Obama’s presidency, Zients was appointed the administration’s chief performance officer—a newly created role that centered on making the government more efficient.

He later led a mission aimed at fixing HealthCare.gov, the federal website for the Affordable Care Act, when it experienced technological difficulties in 2013. He brought in private companies and technology firms to undertake a rapid review of the platform’s problems.

Zients is known as a meticulous planner. In his beginning days handling the COVID-19 response, he scheduled hour-by-hour what needed to be done to execute his pandemic plan. He and Biden spoke three to four times a week while he was overseeing the coronavirus response.

While Mr. Zients’ selection to handle the pandemic was initially criticized by some progressives who said he lacked public health experience, he earned bipartisan praise in hearings for his efforts to rapidly disseminate vaccines after a bumpy rollout during the end of the Trump administration. About 65% of the population, or more than 200 million people, were fully vaccinated by the time he announced in March 2022 that he would be leaving his position.

He also won high marks for shifting the administration from a more reactive approach to the pandemic to responding to COVID-19 as an ongoing public health issue. He pledged a wartime response to the administration’s global response to COVID-19, but some donations to poor countries fell short of targets because of low demand and limited funding.

Biden and Zients developed a relationship during the Obama Administration, and became closer when Zients was brought on as an adviser to Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign.

Zients doesn’t have the kind of decades-long relationship with Biden that some of the president’s closest aides have. But those advisers—including senior White House aides Mike Donilon, Steve Ricchetti, and Bruce Reed—are expected to continue working closely with Biden as he prepares to announce his reelection bid in the coming month.

Research contact: @WSJ

Trump fined nearly $1M for ‘revenge’ lawsuit against Hillary Clinton, others

January 23, 2023

Former president Donald Trump and his lawyer, Alina Habba, have been fined almost $1 million by a federal judge in Florida for what was ruled a frivolous lawsuit brought against his 2016 presidential rival Hillary Clinton and others, reports The Washington Post.

Trump is a “prolific and sophisticated litigant who is repeatedly using the courts to seek revenge on political adversaries,” wrote U.S. District Judge Donald  Middlebrooks in his searing 46-page judgment published late on Thursday, January 19.

“He is the mastermind of strategic abuse of the judicial process, and he cannot be seen as a litigant blindly following the advice of a lawyer. He knew full well the impact of his actions,” said Middlebrooks. “As such, I find that sanctions should be imposed upon Mr. Trump and his lead counsel, Ms. Habba.”

Trump—who has announced his bid for the presidency in 2024— Habba, and the Habba Madaio & Associates law firm, are jointly liable for $937,989.39, the court found.

The suit was filed in March 2022—with Trump alleging that Clinton and others had orchestrated “a malicious conspiracy” to spread false information that his campaign had colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential race that he won.

It was dismissed last September by Middlebrooks, who said there were “substantive defects” in the case and grievances for which a court was “not the appropriate forum.” Despite this, the judge said in his Thursday ruling that Habba had been “undeterred” after the case’s dismissal and continued to advance the claims, leading to the fine.

“Here, we are confronted with a lawsuit that should never have been filed, which was completely frivolous, both factually and legally, and which was brought in bad faith for an improper purpose,” Middlebrooks wrote, decrying what he called “abusive litigation tactics.”

In a blistering judgment, he said the case was “intended for a political purpose” and showed a “continuing pattern of misuse of the courts by Trump and his lawyers,” undermining the rule of law and diverting resources. “No reasonable lawyer would have filed it,” he added.

Along with former secretary of state Clinton, Middlebrooks said 30 individuals and entities were “needlessly harmed” by the case in a bid to “advance a political narrative.” Among them were former FBI director James B. Comey, the Democratic National Committee and Christopher Steele, a former British spy hired by an opposition research firm working for the Clinton campaign who compiled a now-infamous dossier alleging ties between Trump and Russia.

Middlebrooks described the legal complaint as “a hodgepodge of disconnected, often immaterial events, followed by an implausible conclusion.” One example he cited was the alleged collusion between Comey and Clinton, a claim he said not only lacked substance, but was “categorically absurd” given the impact Comey’s announcements about the investigation into Clinton’s emails had on her 2016 campaign.

The judge also said Trump’s suit misrepresented the 2019 report by former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III by saying it had exonerated him. Mueller said only that his team had made no determination on “collusion” with the Russian government, and that it had not found sufficient evidence to charge any member of Trump’s campaign with criminal conspiracy.

Finally, the judgment also referenced Trump’s other lawsuits, saying they demonstrated “a pattern of abuse of the courts.” Among them were legal complaints against Twitter, CNN, New York Attorney General Letitia James and the Pulitzer Prize board for a 2018 award given jointly to the Post and The New York Times for coverage of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

In a brief document filed Friday morning with Middlebrooks, Trump withdrew his lawsuit against James in Florida. James has a $250 million lawsuit against Trump over a decade’s worth of allegedly fraudulent business practices.

Representatives for Trump and Habba did not immediately respond to an overnight request for comment from The Washington Post.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Discord acquires Gas, a compliments-based social media app for teens

January 19, 2023

The messaging platform Discord has announced the acquisition of Gas, an app that’s popular among teens for its positive spin on social media, reports TechCrunch.

On Gas, users sign up with their school, add friends, and answer polls about their classmates. But the questions in the polls are intended to boost users’ confidence, rather than damage it. Teens might be asked to choose which of four friends is the best DJ or has the best smile. Then the person who was chosen will get an anonymous message with the compliment, sent from a vague “boy in 10th grade” or “girl in 11th grade.”

Gas was founded by Nikita Bier, who previously sold a similar app called tbh to Facebook in 2017. The tbh app has since been shut down.

According to data from Sensor Tower, Gas reached 7.4 million installs and almost $7 million in consumer spending since its launch in summer 2022. Users can subscribe to a paid feature called “God Mode,” which gives users hints about who their secret complimenters are.

“At this time, Gas will continue as its own standalone app and the Gas team will be joining Discord to help our efforts to continue to grow across new and core audiences,” Discord wrote in an announcement. As of October, Bier said Gas had four team members.

Despite Gas’s popularity, the app has had a rocky road to its exit. The app was the subject of a widespread sex-trafficking rumor, which was completely false, yet still impacted the app’s downloads. Bier told The Washington Post that he and his team received hundreds of graphic death threats as a result of this hoax. Other viral social apps, IRL and WalkSafe, also have been hit with unfounded trafficking accusations.

Gas is one of several anonymous apps—some based around compliments, some not—that have gone viral recently. But TechCrunch found that apps like NGL and Sendit were using bots to simulate engagement.

Like Gas, these apps offer users the ability to pay to see who asks questions. Understandably, some customers felt scammed when it turned out that these questions didn’t actually come from their friends. Meanwhile, 9count, the company that made Spark and Summer, is working on a product similar to Gas called nocapp.

Even though Discord is currently going to keep Gas operating as a stand-alone product, Discord recently announced that it would integrate a selection of apps into its servers. So, it’s possible that we could see these positive community polls on the messaging platform in the future.

“We’re always working to create an inclusive world where no one feels like an outsider and we’re excited to welcome Gas to the Discord community as our next step to fulfilling that vision,” Discord wrote in its announcement.

The terms of Discord’s acquisition of Gas have not been disclosed.

Research contact: @TechCrunch

Trump falsely claimed in deposition that Carroll spoke about enjoying rape

January 17, 2023

Former President Donald Trump used a sworn deposition in a case brought by his sexual assault accuser E. Jean Carroll to continue calling her a liar and to claim she is mentally ill—denying that he sexually assaulted her even as he falsely claimed Carroll said in a CNN interview that she enjoyed being raped.

In rambling and combative testimony during an October 2022 session at Mar-a-Lago, Trump reiterated past claims he didn’t know Carroll, except as an adversary in what he termed “hoax” litigation, and said she was a “nut job” who was fabricating the story altogether, reports The Washington Post.

“I know nothing about her,” he said in response to questions from Carroll’s attorney Roberta Kaplan, according to court documents unsealed Friday. “I think she’s sick. Mentally sick.”

The former president twisted Carroll’s comments from a June 2019 interview with CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, in which she said she shied away from calling her alleged encounter with Trump a “rape” because the word “has so many sexual connotations” and is a “fantasy” for many.

“I think most people think of rape as being sexy,” she told Cooper, according to a transcript of the interview, explaining that she instead thinks of her alleged attack as a “fight.”

Trump cited the interview in telling Kaplan that Carroll “loved” sexual assault.

“She actually indicated that she loved it. Okay?” Trump said in the deposition. “In fact, I think she said it was sexy, didn’t she? She said it was very sexy to be raped.”

Kaplan then asked: “So, sir, I just want to confirm: It’s your testimony that E. Jean Carroll said that she loved being sexually assaulted by you?”

And Trump answered: “Well, based on her interview with Anderson Cooper, I believe that’s what took place.”

Carroll, an author and advice columnist, publicly accused Trump in 2019 of raping her in a dressing room at Bergdorf Goodman in the mid-1990s. She has a pair of pending lawsuits against him in federal court in Manhattan—the first for alleged defamation over comments by Trump in 2019 trashing her and her account, and the latter over the alleged sexual assault itself.

Trump has denied knowing Carroll at all, even though he was photographed with her and her then-husband at an event decades ago.

On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Lewis A. Kaplan rejected a bid by Trump’s attorneys to dismiss Carroll’s sexual assault lawsuit, which was filed under a New York law that lets sexual assault victims sue years later.

Trump lawyer Alina Habba said she will appeal the judge’s decision not to toss out the newer case. A spokesman for Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign declined further comment.

The D.C. Court of Appeals is considering whether the Justice Department can represent Trump as a federal employee, a long-running legal dispute that has been heard by various courts and could effectively put an end to the defamation claims. Kaplan has scheduled an April trial date for both lawsuits.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

These dogs ride a bus like people ‘and now, the Internet is in love’

January 12, 2023

Amaru, a five-year-old rescue dog, waits patiently on his family’s front lawn in Skagway, Alaska, watching for the bus to arrive each morning. “He got used to sitting in that spot. He even looks in the direction he knows they’re going to come,” says his dad, Gary Hisman—who typically does yard work while Amaru awaits his daily transport. “He’s a very smart guy.”

Amaru, along with about 40 other dogs, is part of a play group organized by Mo Mountain Mutts a local dog walking and training business, run by husband-and-wife duo, Mo and Lee Thompson, reports The Washington Post.

The Thompsons lead off-leash pack walks up to three times a day, but what has captured the attention of people worldwide are hilarious videos showing how they collect their canine clients: A recent TikTok video of several dogs confidently boarding the bus on their own with big wagging tails was viewed more than 50 million times.

It documents the Thompsons’ regular pickup routine. At one point, the minibus stops in front of Amaru’s home, where he is seated in the front yard—clearly expecting them. From inside the bus, the Thompsons open the doors for the pup, and he happily leaps in.

Once entering the bus, the dogs typically sniff around and greet the other canine passengers, before climbing onto their assigned seat — which the Thompsons have trained them to do. Then, their harness gets secured, and the same process is repeated as the rest of the pack, about 12 dogs, is picked up.

The seats are carefully selected based on factors such as a pup’s personality, age and manners. Most dogs head directly to their designated seat without being guided.

“Specific areas of the bus are better suited to the dogs,” Mo, 31, explained—adding that senior dogs tend to be assigned seats closer to the front, while rowdier youngsters ride in what she calls the “licky puppy corner,” because they tend to lick each other for most of the journey.

When the dogs board the bus, Mo does a small obedience drill, and passes out treats to reward good behavior. Once they’re settled and buckled in, Mo said, “they have to stay on their seats”—just like humans—while being transported to the trailhead.

Mo and Lee regularly film portions of their bus rides and walks and share videos on social media. Lately they’ve been going viral. Mo Mountain Mutts has around 237,000 followers on Instagram, and 1.3 million followers on TikTok, but they reach far more people than that on social media.

“I originally started posting on social media for my clients,” Mo said, adding that she often shared “class photos” for dog parents.

“Somewhere along the line,” she said, “the puppy bus just took off, and now the Internet is in love.”

In the videos, Amaru has emerged as a fan favorite. “All my friends tease me that he’s going to leave home and go to Hollywood,” Hisman joked.

People often call out the dogs by name in the video comments, to the delight of the pet’s owners. “Otis is all business… straight to his seat. Amaru wants to socialize,” one person observed.

“Jake hopping on his seat is always my fav,” another commented.

Fans of the dog bus say the videos are a guaranteed mood boost. “Can we all agree that this video heals all sadness? Cause I was crying two minutes ago. I am not anymore,” one person wrote.

“It’s bringing me so much joy,” another user commented.

Just as the Thompson’s social media stardom was unexpected, so, too, was the couple’s canine-focused career path. They never set out to start a dog walking company, Mo said—or move permanently to Alaska, for that matter.

The Thompsons both grew up in Michigan and were high school sweethearts who traveled to Alaska in 2014. They initially intended to only spend the summer there, but they ended up staying. About six years ago, Mo was working as a bartender, server and hostess at a hotel restaurant, while her husband worked at the same restaurant as a server, as well as at a local school as a special education paraprofessional, and later, an athletic director.

At the time, Mo, whose parents were dog breeders, had some flexibility in her work schedule, and “it just started with my co-worker and I walking each other’s dogs,” she said. “I ended up having more time available to get them out.”

It grew from there. Given that Skagway has a population of less than 2,000 people, word spread about Mo’s dog walking services, and people reached out to inquire about her availability.

“I just started picking up dogs slowly, to the point where I needed to make a second group,” said Mo, who left her job at the restaurant in 2016 to make more time for dog walking. “It really just evolved out of that.”

Her husband, meanwhile, continued focusing on his own work, until he lost his job in 2021 after the school was closed due to COVID. He started tagging along on Mo’s daily pack walks for fresh air.

The timing, it turned out, could not have been better: During the height of the pandemic, “people were adopting dogs like crazy,” said Mo.

Business began booming, and Lee took on Mo Mountain Mutts as his primary job, too. Eventually, they swapped their van for a bus to keep up with the growing doggy demand.

Now, the couple—who have an eight-month-old son named Vern, as well as three dogs and a cat—often divide and conquer the business. Mo usually handles the morning walks, while Lee tackles the afternoon trails. They also offer training (virtually and in-person), solo walks, socialization lessons and other services.

When it comes to pack walks, “there’s a lot of thought that goes into where we’re going and what we’re going to do,” Mo explained. For instance, “if it’s hot, we need to find a water source. If it’s icy, we’re not going to do an incline. If I have a puppy, we need to be on flat ground. If I have a large group, we can’t go places where there’s tight corners and blind spots.”

She does temperament testing and trail training in advance to ensure she feels comfortable letting a dog go off-leash.

“All the dogs that go on my pack walk need to know my rules and expectations,” she said. “We try to encourage good doggy citizens.”

She added that although she prioritizes obedience and safe behavior, she also encourages playful, messy fun. “My business has been built around dogs being dogs,” she said. “The dogs come first. The dogs are always the priority.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Happy New Year! Eating 12 grapes at midnight for luck is a tradition that TikTok is crushing hard

January 2, 2023

If you’re hoping for a little bit of good luck in the new year, there are plenty of foods that—according to a variety of globe-spanning traditions—will help ensure favorable circumstances, reports The Washington Post.

In Pennsylvania Dutch families, there sauerkraut is often served. Southerners will swear up and down by a dish of Hoppin’ John to bring a year’s worth of good vibes.

But this New Year’s Eve, many people are preparing to consume 12 grapes as the clock chimes 12 times at midnight—an old ritual with roots in Spain that is finding new life on TikTok.

Videos touting the superstition are circulating (the hashtag #12grapes has 11.5 million views), and in the remix-happy spirit of the social media platform, the practice of eating grapes is getting mashed up with a host of other good luck incantations. Some people are planning to eat their grapes while sitting under tables. Others are planning to wear red underwear, which is actually a part of the Spanish lore.

Some people have posted videos of the partners they claim to have snagged after participating in the ritual, as proof that it works. Others are offering tips on how to accomplish the feat of ingesting a dozen grapes in the span that it takes a clock to chime (small, seedless varieties are the best bet, apparently).

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Astounding ‘wave clouds’ surge over Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains

December 30, 2022

An astonishing display of atmospheric variability came as giant ocean waves of clouds drifted over the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming earlier this month, reports the Good News Network.

The incredible scene was captured by photographer Rachel Gordon, who shared them on the Wyoming through The Lens Facebook group, and is a textbook example of the phenomenon known as “Kelvin-Helmholtz Instability.”

KHI results from differences in air density between the various layers of the sky—in this case probably from sun heating pockets of air between mountain saddles which rose rapidly into both colder air and strong winds.

“I think everyone should see this beautiful phenomenon,” Gordon wrote to the group.

The Washington Post reported that wave clouds from KHI are not uncommon, but they are fleeting. Perfect examples like the one photographed by Rachel are rare.

Another group member caught a time-lapse video of their movement, which shows them hold their shape as they move across the horizon like tidal waves ready to smash into the coast.

Research contact: @goodnewsnetwork

Nassau County D.A. Donnelly opens investigation into George Santos

December 30, 2022

On December 28, Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly (R) in New York State announced that she would open an investigation into Representative-elect George Santos (R), whose surprise victory in November was quickly followed by revelations that he lied about his business experience, educational background, and family ancestry, reports The Washington Post.

Donnelly said in a statement: “The numerous fabrications and inconsistencies associated” with Santos “are nothing short of stunning.” The residents in the congressional district “must have an honest and accountable representative in Congress” and “if a crime was committed in this county, we will prosecute it.”

Donnelly’s spokesperson, Brendan Brosh, said in a statement, “We are looking into the matter.”

In November, Santos won an open congressional seat on Long Island held by a Democrat. With that victory, Santos made headlines as the first non-incumbent who is an openly gay Republican to be elected to Congress. He also falsely described himself as Jewish and a fantastically successful businessman.

Days after an explosive story ran in The New York Times on December 19, detailing lies Santos told about his background, Santos gave a handful of interviews in which he acknowledged that he was untruthful about having worked at Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, and having graduated from Baruch College. He said he never claimed to be Jewish, despite previous public comments about what he now characterizes as his “Jew-ish” heritage.

Also unclear is the exact source of the $700,000 Santos claimed to have loaned to his campaign in 2022—just two years after filing a financial disclosure report during an unsuccessful 2020 congressional run that stated he had no major assets or earned income.

Santos and his representatives did not respond to a request for comment.

News of the investigation came as another detail in Santos’s biography unraveled on Wednesday. During his 2020 congressional race, he told a dramatic story on a podcast about how a prestigious private school he attended refused to help his financially struggling family months before his graduation.

In the October 2020 interview, which resurfaced on social media Wednesday, Santos, referring to his parents, said: “They sent me to a good prep school—which was Horace Mann Prep in the Bronx. And in my senior year of prep school, unfortunately, my parents fell on hard times.” Santos went on to say that, at the time, his family couldn’t “afford a $2,500 tuition” and “I left school [with] four months till graduation.”

However, a spokesperson for the Horace Mann School since has told the Post that the school has no record of Santos attending the institution.

After contacting the school and providing them with several variations of Santos’s name that he has used in public, Ed Adler, a spokesman for Horace Mann, wrote in an email, “George Santos or any of the aliases you [cite] never attended HM.”

Some Democrats have called for Santos not to be seated as a member of Congress next week. House Republican leaders have largely remained silent about the matter, as Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-California) seeks enough votes to become House Speaker when Republicans take control of the chamber when the new term begins Tuesday, January 3.

Members of the House Equality Caucus, which focuses on issues facing the LGBTQ community, said in a statement Wednesday that Santos “does not deserve” to be in Congress and urged him to “step down immediately”—pointing to his unsupported claim that four of his employees were killed in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016. Santos later said on WABC that the four people “were going to be coming to work” at his company. He did not elaborate in the interview, nor respond to inquiries from the Post about this.

Bruce Blakeman—the executive of Nassau County—told CNN on Wednesday that Santos needs to address the “emotional issues” that led to his lying. “A normal person wouldn’t do that,” said Blakeman, a Republican.

On Wednesday night on Twitter, Santos ignored the latest developments, but said he is looking forward to working in Congress.

Research contact: @washingtonpost